Saturday, April 16, 2011

Presto, Pesto!

Hello!  My name is Katie and I love to cook.  How cheesy is that?  I can’t think of any other way to start this blog except to say just that: I love to cook.  I also am embarking on a culinary career and I’m a little nervous because sometimes I can’t even make a proper grilled cheese (I’m still embarrassed about breaking down over a mangled mess of bread, butter and cheese and having my boyfriend tell me to go sit down while he fixed it).  Seems like a poor career choice after sharing that bit of information, doesn’t it?  I don’t look at it that way.  Sometimes I make the most amazing meals and sometimes they flop.  Isn’t that the way every cook’s resume looks?  Even on Top Chef some of those guys put out things I don’t want to try, but that’s the way it works!  I’m learning slowly how to perfect basics, try new and out there things and I’m sharing my experiences. This blog is about exploring the successes and failures of an aspiring, ever-evolving young cook.  Here’s my first entry.
Today was a pesto bonanza.  I usually make fresh pesto the second good-looking basil starts showing up in the grocery stores or farmers markets.  However, last summer and all I only made ONE batch.  I was a little ashamed to say the least, because there is nothing more satisfying and bright- tasting and happiness-inducing than eating homemade pesto.  The other great thing: you can use it in EVERYTHING.  Pasta is the most common and obvious choice, because well, you shouldn’t mess with a good thing.  But think of all the possibilities!  Pesto stirred into mashed potatoes, pesto sour cream, pesto-coated meatiness, salad dressing, sandwich spread…I really could go on forever.  It’s just such a lovely creation.  So, this afternoon I went to town with some pesto.  I mean, was a pesto making fool.  Before telling you all the yummy things I made with pesto, I must first tell you how to achieve pesto nirvana.
The pesto I make is from a recipe I found in the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook.  Do not scoff- this cookbook has many different recipes with great-for-you-fats, because honestly you can, but shouldn’t live without them.  The reason this recipe is a MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) rich concoction is because of pine nuts and olive oil.  Very, very good for you and very delicious.  The pesto consists of:

3 Cups fresh Basil, packed
1/4 C. olive oil
1/4 C. freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 C. toasted pine nuts (to toast, put in a skillet on medium heat till they are fragrant and slightly browned, then put them on a plate to cool)
1 Clove garlic
*This is a half recipe because I have a ghetto, tiny food processor.

So you just blend that up in a food processor.  Some recipes say to slowly add in the oil through the hole in the top of the processor, but since I don't have one of those fancy, hole-y food processors, I just add it all at once and grind that business till it's well chopped but not too smooth.  I like a slightly grainy consistency, but to each their own.

            Of course, I couldn’t just stop with the pesto.  It smelled so good and fresh I just had to do something with it.  This is when my kitchen ADD kicks in.  It’s a terribly wonderful thing because I can spend entire days in my kitchen making food I could never possibly consume.  The wonderful part about it is you eat well all day, every day.  Anyways, I was thinking, “Oooo, wouldn’t that pesto be great with eggs and toast in the morning?”  As I was putting away the pine nuts I’d just used I saw an unopened package of polenta in my pantry.  “Why haven’t I cooked with this yet?” I thought.  Upon reading the packaging I saw a recipe for egg and ham with grilled polenta.  And that’s how, five minutes later, I found myself making a gigantor pot of polenta….for polenta loaf, duh.  As that was coming together I thought, “I wonder what that pesto would taste like stirred into that polenta?”  Now I have a polenta loaf AND a small amount of pesto polenta that is really fantastic.  Saturday morning at Casa de Katie will consist of eggs, crispy ham and pan-fried pesto polenta cakes.  Maybe with more pesto smeared on the cakes.  Do I have a problem?
            You would think I would stop here.  Oh no.  I have an on-going love affair with hummus and I can’t be without it.  I always have some in my fridge.  Bonus: I make my own and I don’t want to brag, but it’s pretty awesome.  If I get started on the hummus topic….well, I wont.  That story and recipe is for another day.  To get to the point, I am out of hummus.  So what do I think of?  Pesto hummus.  Regular pesto hummus?  Eww.  White bean pesto hummus?  Nom Nom Nom.  Here it is:

  1. Drain a can of White beans (cannelini beans) and a can of garbanzos.  Reserve 1/4 C of the juice in the garbanzo can.  Put the whole can of white beans and half of the garbanzos in the FP(food processor).  
  2. Then chop up a clove of garlic, mid-sized and throw that in along with the reserved bean juice.
  3.  Squeeze 1/2 to a whole lemon and pour that in too- it really is a matter of taste how lemony you like it.  I put in 3/4 of the lemon.  
  4. Next is a little under 1/4 cup of Tahini.  With this hummus i put a heaping teaspoon of tahini in because I wanted the white beans to shine, not the typical potent tahini flavor of humus.
  5.  Lastly a dash or two of celery salt, 3/4 tsp.of salt, about 1 tsp. of coriander and the most important part, 3 spoonfuls of the homemade pesto.  I cracked some freshly ground pepper to taste over the whole shabang and blended it till it could blend no more.  Top with a dollop of pesto!

I could not be more enthused about pesto today (couldn’t you tell?).  That’s what’s so nice and fun and nourishing- in more ways than one, ba-dun-dun- about this cooking thing!  I am not changing the landscape of culinary world from my tiny kitchen in New Haven, CT by any means.  I’m simply so excited to learn more about food, how to prepare it and share it with others. 

Go out and get some tasty-looking basil.  Happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Cant wait to hear of additional hummus recipes.